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‘Special’ Josh Jacobs more than holds his own in RB duel

One of the best dual-threat running backs in the league put his full array of talents on display during the season-opener between the Raiders and Panthers on Sunday in Charlotte.

Christian McCaffrey was also on the field.

Josh Jacobs proved he was up to the challenge as he outshined the consensus top fantasy football pick and continued to establish himself as one of the league’s elite backs with 25 carries for 93 yards and three touchdowns for the Raiders in Sunday’s 34-30 win.

“I’m not going to put any more pressure on him than he puts on himself,” coach Jon Gruden said. “I’m the son of a backfield coach, so I’ve seen a lot of running backs for a long time, But that was a little bit like Walter Payton used to play. It was hot as hell and he got beat up early, but he insisted on coming back and getting the ball as a runner and receiver.

“He deserves some national attention. I hope you guys give it to him.”

Jacobs will get plenty of headlines after a sensational performance, the fourth multiple-touchdown game of the 14 he has played in the NFL. The second-year star also backed up all the offseason talk about his improvements in the passing game with career-highs of four catches and 46 yards.

“That’s the thing I worked on the most in the offseason,” Jacobs said of his role in the passing game. “That’s what I was trying to build on. Just to see the team has confidence in me is huge.”

It was on the ground where Jacobs did all of his scoring, including the game-winning touchdown from six yards out with 4:08 to play.

Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr both referred to Jacobs as “special,” a term the 2019 first-round pick out of Alabama laughed off.

“I just feel regular, honestly,” he said. “I had a pretty good game, but there’s a lot I can correct. I know there’s a couple plays I look back and think, ‘Dang, I missed a backdoor cut there.’ That’s the kind of thing I try to hold myself to is having a perfect game and try to come back better next week.”

Very few of those mistakes were noticeable to anyone but Jacobs.

He scored the first touchdown in Las Vegas Raiders history from 1-yard out after a long pass to Henry Ruggs.

His second score capped a pivotal drive in the third quarter that gave the Raiders their biggest lead. Jacobs had a 29-yard reception on a second-and-14 play to jumpstart the drive, then took it in on third-and-1 from the 7.

On the final drive, Jacobs got things started with an 18-yard reception from Carr and then scored on his second straight carry from inside the 10.

Of Jacobs, Carr said, “The things people don’t see, like him without the ball, him blocking, how much defenses bite on play-action when we fake the ball to him. That’s a quarterback’s dream.

“The thing about us is we don’t care about stats. We just want to do our job when our number is called. Josh did his job exactly how he was supposed to today.”

That team concept was evident in how well the Raiders’ offensive line played in front of Jacobs despite losing star right tackle Trent Young early and then his backup Sam Young not long after.

Jacobs knew he would still have plenty of room to operate.

“I have the ultimate faith in our offensive line, no matter who is in the game,” said Jacobs, who mentioned the instruction the linemen receive from offensive line coach Tom Cable. “I know how he prepares them, I know how they work. So to me, I knew there wasn’t going to be a drop-off. I knew they were prepared … whether it was the passing game or the running game.”

Jacobs had plenty of success in both.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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